Snow Day #SOL16 Day 21

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The no school text came through at 8:37pm last night.  The snow had started to come down very lightly.  We would have to see what the night would bring.  Snow days are now announced before there has even been a bit of accumulation.  They are much more uneventful than when we were younger.  We used to wake up in the morning, look out the window, and listen with excitement and anticipation for our school district to be cancelled on the radio.

This morning we get out of bed later than usual: 6:00am.  The breakfast ritual begins.  “We don’t have school today because of the snow outside,” I say to my son as I point out the window.

“Snow? Yay! I’ll need my snow pants, mama,”  he replies.  “Are we going to do projects together?”

“Yes, we’ll do some projects after we eat breakfast,” I say.  He is at an age where he really likes to do projects of any kind.

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We start with decorating a little bit for Easter.  I bring up our Easter bins and he eagerly looks through. “Easter time! It’s Easter time! Oh!  The Easter bunny can fill these eggs with chocolate!  Does that sound good?”

“That sounds like a very good plan.  Now the Easter bunny will find the eggs up here and he can fill the eggs with treats,” I say.

“Wow, Dad will be so ‘prised!” He is so proud of the work he has done.

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Next we work on Easter gifts for my son’s teachers.  We put each soap in a bunny bag.  He chooses the mini cards and carefully fills out his name inside each one.  I love that he is writing all the letters of his name but just jumbled all over in no order.  It’s so fun to see the progression. He works really hard to sign his name for his teachers – true writing with a purpose.

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We move on to a baking project.  I bring up a brownie mix from the basement and take out a mixing bowl.  He sees the items on the counter and gets very excited.  “What are you making, Mom?  I help you?”

He washes his hands and climbs up on the stool.  I slide the bowl over to him and we look at the back of the box for the directions.  I point to the number 325 and explain that is the temperature we need to put the oven on to bake the brownies.  I point to the ingredients and show him that we have each one on the counter for this project.

He happily pours the water and oil into the bowl while I crack the egg.  He mixes and mixes and says, “I got the egg all over.”

“You did exactly what you need to do.  The egg needs to be mixed up into the rest of the ingredients.  Great job!”

He pours in the brownie mix and together we hold the spatula to mix up the heavy brownie batter.  Finally, we pour the batter into the brownie tray. I show him the numbers on the directions to show him that we will put the brownies in the oven for 45 minutes.

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As I clean up the kitchen I can hear him chattering away in his imaginative world.  I look over and he has built himself a fort with the cushions from the couch.

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I look at the clock and it is only 10:36am. I wish I could bottle his energy. “God bless preschool teachers,” I think to myself.  They stay so busy throughout the day! As soon as the kitchen timer goes off for the brownies, I’ll take them out of the oven and we will take a ride to the public library.

 

First Day of Spring #SOL16 Day 20

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Groceries bought

laundry done

lunches made

lesson plans ready

colorful flowers on display

Easter bunny movie being watched

First day of Spring

Yet

One district already canceled for tomorrow

Latest forecast calls for 6 to 10 inches

Car parked strategically in driveway

for the snow blower to get through

Skies getting gray

We wait to see what tomorrow will bring

 

Pistachio Pudding Cake #SOL16 Day 18

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Sometimes things are not as easy as they appear.  Or perhaps I get myself into situations that could have been easy if I had just slowed down to plan it out. I’ve been looking forward to an annual St. Patrick’s Day/St. Joseph’s Day party that my friends throw.  Life has been very busy so I came across a recipe for Pistachio Pudding Cake and thought, “Now that should not be time intensive.  It’s green.  It looks yummy. That’s what I’ll make.”

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I quickly scanned the ingredients at the beginning of the week and vaguely thought, “I should check the basement.  I’ll bet I have most of these ingredients in the house.”  Fast forward to Friday after dinner at a nearby restaurant and I can remember I need a box of yellow cake mix (already have it), eggs (already have them), and pistachio pudding mix.  I know I need that so I take my four-year old for a quick run through the grocery store before heading home.  We get home and I shower to get the smell of fish and chips off me. I open my computer to scan the ingredients necessary for the cake and realize, “Oh no!  I need club soda!”  We, of course, do not have club soda in the house. At this point it is close to 8pm and my husband does not see why I need to make the cake tonight.

I am going to a half day library conference in the morning and know as I mentally run through my day that I’ll never get this cake done if I wait until tomorrow.  I text my neighbor asking for a cup of club soda.  She texts back, “I don’t have any in the house but my husband just left for Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee.  Do you want me to ask him to stop for you at the grocery store?  He really won’t mind.” I desperately agree to this kind offer. I turn on the oven and take out the ingredients.  My son is bubbling with excitement to make a green cake for the party tomorrow.  My neighbor’s husband rings the bell and hands me two bottles of club soda and refuses to take any money.

We get the cake in the oven and I bring my son in for the bedtime routine of books and bed long after his normal bedtime. I’m yawning my way through the books so when I close his door I go out to the living room and ask my husband to take the cake out of the oven and cover it with a clean kitchen towel for me.  I’m too tired to last the next 20 minutes until the kitchen timer goes off.

As I’m drifting off to sleep my husband comes in to report, “This cake is making me really hungry.  And I took it out of the oven. It looks like it’s from a bakery. Nice job.”

Today I rush out of the house at 8:30am for the conference.  When I leave at noon I go to the grocery store for one more ingredient I refused to ask my neighbor to pick up last night: heavy whipping cream.  Yes, there is still icing to be made.  I knew I could tackle this one today after the conference before leaving for the party.  After we finished lunch my son got up onto the stool at the counter and he poured all the ingredients into the bowl.  I used the electric hand mixer to mix until stiff peaks formed.  My son helped to “paint” the icing on to the cake.  We sprinkled some walnuts on top and put it into the fridge to cool.  My mom will come over in a bit when my son wakes from his nap and we’ll head over with our cake to celebrate the party.

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All’s well that ends well.  However, I could have saved myself a considerable amount of time and frustration if I had just taken the time to look at the ingredients and plan it out for this very (what should have been) easy St. Patrick’s Day cake!

A Special School Visit #SOL16 Day 18

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Yesterday was a historic day at our school. You could actually feel it.  The air was buzzing with excitement and anticipation.  No, we were not celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  In fact, fourth graders were instructed to dress up for St. Patrick’s day on Wednesday.  As I walked down the hallway I saw boys in ties with slicked down hair and girls in dresses and little shiny shoes.  “Don’t you look handsome!  Wow, you look so pretty!” I’d exclaim.  I couldn’t help it.  They all looked so sweet and shiny. The fourth graders smiled proudly.  Everyone was on their best behavior.  Today was a very big day.  Today was Ruby Day.

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The fourth graders study Ruby Bridges as part of our curriculum.  They learn about a time not so long ago when students were not allowed to go to the same school because of the color of their skin.  They are outraged by the very idea of it.  How can that be?  The color of your skin shouldn’t matter!  One teacher feels a special connection because she and Ruby were born months apart.  In the past her class wrote a book for Mrs. Henry, Ruby’s teacher, and mailed it to her home in Boston.  This teacher was over the moon when Mrs. Henry took the time to write a beautiful letter back to her class.  When this fourth grade teacher found out that Ruby Bridges does school visits she made it her mission to get Ruby to our school.

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The fourth grade teachers all agreed to eliminate field trips this year to fund the Ruby visit.  Part of the contract stated that the press could not be alerted.  Ms. Bridges wanted the visit to be for the children only.  If the press were there, she would turn around and leave. We had to be very quiet about our special guest.  It was a stealth operation for sure.  Our cafeteria also serves as the gymnasium and auditorium so the lunch schedule was changed around to accommodate the event.  Students ate lunches in their classrooms.  Recesses were held at entirely different times.  Special folding chairs were shipped over from the middle school.  No one would be sitting on the floor for this presentation.  It was all very dignified.

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As she entered the auditorium it felt like the whole room took in a collective breath and then the children and adults smiled and clapped.  She said later she could feel as she entered the room that she was about to make new friends.  She commented on how welcome everyone made her feel.  I think what struck me the most was that she still has the same sweet little face that she had as that six-year old being led into school by the U.S. Court Marshals.   See for yourself below.

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Ruby Bridges was all we had anticipated and more.  She spoke to the students about how they can make positive changes for the world.  She provided details about what it felt like in 1960 to go to school with Mrs. Henry.  She talked about Mrs. Henry being more than a teacher but also a friend.  They still see each other quite a bit today. She relayed the feeling of longing for friends to play with regardless of what they looked like.  She was dignified and kind and genuinely happy to spend time in a room with our students.

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What an amazing opportunity for our students and teachers.  We came face to face with history.  We met a joyous, brave, ladylike little girl who grew up to be a joyous, brave, ladylike adult who continues to spread the message of hope and kindness to all.

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Angry People #SOL16 Day 17

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Our fourth graders have been studying school integration. When we read and look through the pictures during that time period it is shocking to see white mothers screaming such hateful words at innocent children.  What has turned them into such angry people?  How can they act like this and think it is okay?  

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Which got me thinking about our current state of affairs.  I see political candidates who are saying very ugly, undignified things to each other during debates. So many in our country support the hateful, bullying statements one candidate makes. I truly never thought this candidate would have made it this far. What has turned them into such angry people?  How can they see him act like this and think it is okay?  

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Fourth grade is a powerful time to study school integration and prejudice of any type. They are at an age where they feel very strongly about fairness and justice.  I think that is why I have made a career of being around these smart little humans each day.  They understand the difference between right and wrong.  What happens along the way? Why can’t adults see it too?

 

A Younger Colleague #SOL16 Day 16

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A young, beautiful (doesn’t need makeup pretty) colleague and I were standing at the copy machine last week.  She’s bubbly and fun and full of life.  “Any news on the dating front?” I asked.

She turned and said, “No.  It’s not going well. ”

I completely remembered myself ten years ago in her shoes.  I spent so much time worrying about my future that I didn’t give myself time to enjoy all the amazing things in my life at the time.  I had mapped out what my life should be: college, meeting my future husband, getting a teaching job, getting married and having a family all by age 30.  But as we all have to figure out: life doesn’t go the way you plan.

Instead I gave my heart and soul to my students and my profession. On the weekends I had down time to rejuvenate and make time for fun.  I traveled all over the country and the world.  I got to hold my brothers’ babies and spoil them rotten but go home to a clean, quiet house.  I bought my own townhouse and painted and decorated exactly as I pleased.

I remembered something that I felt necessary to pass along to this young colleague of mine.  “When I was in my twenties I worked with a teacher my age who saw me stressing out about the state of my love life and he said something I’ll never forget.  He said, ‘I’m enjoying today because I know someday I’ll have a family to care for with many obligations.’ He said it like he knew it to be true for his future.  It made me pause.  All this time I was worrying about what hadn’t happened yet. I needed to let go of the worry and believe that my future would entail a family. Instead I needed to enjoy what I did have.”

“Someday you won’t be able to go out last minute for drinks with friends on a Friday afternoon.  Someday you’ll want the chance to leisurely walk through Home Goods or T.J. Maxx but you will have others’ schedules and needs to contend with.  If possible, enjoy all that you have now.  You’ll love the obligations of a family someday but you’ll be glad to have these memories to look back on too.”

She said, “Thank you. I really needed to hear that today.”  It made me feel good to pay that message forward.  She is a real catch and someday she’ll meet someone who will make her feel that way.  For now, I hope she enjoys every bit of being young and carefree.

10 Things Right Now #SOL16 Day 15

Reading: Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott. It’s a YA novel in verse about WW II. Historical fiction that takes place during WW II is my sweet spot.

Cooking: Steel-cut oats on the stove for breakfast

Thinking About: A friend who needs all of our prayers

Wishing: That losing weight did not involve so much planning and prepping

Planning: A St. Patrick’s Day surprise treat for my son’s teachers

Writing: Every day thanks to this challenge. Taking the time to notice and appreciate more which goes into my writing as well.  This is good for the soul!

Regretting: Letting our son have two Hershey’s kisses after dinner last night.  He could not wind down!  I tucked him in three separate times.

Drinking: A cup of Red Rose tea with skim milk

Looking Forward To: A special guest coming to our school this week (will be able to write about it after it happens)

This post was inspired by Lisa Keeler at http://rdgtchr.blogspot.com/2016/03/10-things-right-now.html. (I substituted regretting for knitting because I don’t knit).  Thank  you, Lisa!

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A Letter to My Mother-in-Law #SOL16 Day 14

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To My Mother-In-Law:

How do I begin to thank you for the gift that is your son?  You have raised him to be level-headed, self-sufficient, hard-working, and kind.  I know you made sure that all of your boys knew how to do their own laundry, iron, and cook the basics before they left to live on their own. Through your example he learned how to clean and to take pride in himself and his surroundings.

You didn’t coddle him but he always knew that he was loved.  You volunteered in his school for cafeteria duty and you knew all of his neighborhood friends.  You and the other moms went down to City Hall for a scheduled appointment with the Mayor when you thought the neighborhood park could be cleaned up and made safer for your children.  You have saved the important things from his childhood like his christening outfit, his baby brush, and notes and cards he wrote in grade school.  I am in awe of how you carefully preserved these treasures, particularly because he was your third child!

I am incredibly grateful to you because I get to benefit from all your hard work.  Your son is loyal and thoughtful.  He’s the one you want in a crisis because he handles things and makes you feel that everything is going to be okay.

He shows our little family unconditional love.  He is so patient and nurturing with our son. He spends his free time playing with him and teaching him how to cut with scissors, how to identify and draw his letters and numbers, and how to rhyme.  He does all of these things in a fun way so that our son begs to do it all again the next day. He gives him the gift of his time and attention.  I hear him at night asking our son the details of his day.  In turn, our son knows how loved he is.  And he absolutely adores his father right back.  Their Saturday morning trips to “the toodle store” (Lowe’s) and the bakery give our son quality time with his Dad that he treasures.

You have never judged me or said a harsh word.  You’ve always made me feel loved and accepted into your family.  You’ve given advice only when I’ve sought it out.  You are strong and ladylike and always up on current events for a good chat over tea.  You like to laugh and you love all dogs and babies.  You are a kind and gentle soul.  I’m so glad your son has so many of your qualities.  I’m so glad you’ve instilled honorable values in him.

I will pay you back by always loving and honoring your son.  I will pay you back by raising our son with good values and a tremendous amount of love.  I hope I will be a mother that a daughter-in-law will be thankful for some day too.

Love,

Your Daughter-In-Law

 

 

Saturday Night Stories #SOL16 Day 13

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I came home to this scene between my husband and son last night.  They were playing a game where you put together puzzle pieces to form a word.  They were practicing saying each letter and then the word using the beginning sound and picture as cues.  When I came through the door my son shouted, “Mom!  Don’t come in yet!  We are making beautiful art for you!”

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I stayed out of the living room until he was ready.  They set up each picture card on the floor and my son eagerly called me over to show me what he had worked so hard to make. Then he decided he should make a story out of the word cards.  He dug into his Magna-tile box to make me a “cup of tea” (see the “cup of tea” box in the picture below) and asked me to sit in the chair to watch him make his story.

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His story involved two bad guys, the bug and the fox, who had a powerful magical ring that changed the other animals into babies.  The frog turned into a tadpole, the duck turned into a duckling, and the cow turned into a calf.  But the police came and figured out how to use the magical ring to turn all the animals back to themselves.  Before the police were finished, though, they turned the bug and the fox into babies.

What a gift to hear his creative mind at work. He has figured out story elements such as conflict and resolution and good overcoming evil.  He asked my husband and me to make up stories. Then he made himself a “cup of juice” and took a seat to listen.  Our stories were not nearly as creative as his.

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He loves stories and I’m thrilled to see him initiate an activity like this one.  I cannot think of a better way to spend a Saturday night.

Morning Walk #SOL16 Day 12

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I met a friend to walk at 6am this morning.  One of the things I love about moving to the town where I teach is the opportunity to spend time with colleagues who have become friends.

“I have $20 in my pocket.  Let’s walk to Starbucks for breakfast and walk back.  I’ve got to ease myself back into this walking routine,” I say.

She laughs and we walk along the river towards town.  Within minutes she has offered sage advice and positives to a negative situation I’m relaying to her.  As we head over the bridge she stops me to point out two magnificent, regal swans gliding through the water below.

By the time we’ve reached Starbucks all my worries have been extinguished by simply talking things through with her and enjoying the natural world around us.  I’m home by 7:30am and ready to take on the day.